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Is Your Career at Risk for Derailing?

Is your career at risk for derailing? Not a question we like to think much about, however, it might be better to take a moment and examine the risk factors rather than stick your head in the sand and hope that it is not happening to you!


I was recently reading through my journals from my tenure at Eli Lilly and Company. To this day, I treasure and value my time there.

While reading and reflecting on what I had written, the question that is the title for this article popped into my mind. Was there ever a time that my career was at risk for derailing?

The question caused me pause because:

  • I worked hard
  • I was ethical
  • I was competent
  • I had received good and in some years outstanding performance reviews

Why would I ever need to think about my career coming off track when things seem so good?

No one likes to dwell on the negative. However, if there are early warning signs it is a good idea to pay attention to them.

Planning is much easier when things are going well rather than waiting to feel the stress when you are in trouble.

5 Reasons Careers Derail

In 2013, the Center for Executive Education published a list of five career derailers for leaders:

  1. Failure to Meet Business Objectives
  2. Inability to Change or Adapt During Transition
  3. Problems with Interpersonal Relationships
  4. Failure to Build and Lead a Team
  5. Failure to Make the Supervisors' or Organization's Priority a Priority of Theirs

This list is a post-mortem of the most popular reasons that careers have derailed. You do not want to be looking at this list and saying to yourself, "Yes, that is what happened to me. If I had only seen it coming so I could have done something about it."

This list describes why careers derail, but leaders need insight into how this happens.

Emotional Intelligence

From my own personal experience, and the experiences I have had over the last 10 years in working in the leader development space, a key common denominator is: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

A lack of Emotional Intelligence can be a derailer, and if used skillfully a possible antidote.

I have created a tool for reflection that will help you understand how a lack of emotional intelligence can be responsible for these common career derailers, and, as a result, prevent your career from derailing.

CLICK HERE for a free download.

I would love to know what you think of this chart. Do you feel like it is accurate in your organization? Would you add any derailers to this list? Have you noticed any antidotes or development ideas that you would be willing to share with others? If so please let us know by commenting on the blog below.

If you feel like your career is derailing and you want some help thinking it through, I would be happy to help you. As a part of my leadership coaching, I offer a free 30-minute consultation.

For more information email me at

Are You Drowning the Creativity in Those You Lead?

Are you fostering creativity in your organization? What climate are you setting that impacts the creativity of those under your leadership?

Are the tactics you are employing as a leader stifling or fostering creativity and innovation?

Hard questions, but the ones that help us grow as leaders are usually the toughest.

At the end of this article, you will be able to download a free self-assessment checklist that will give you insight into these hard questions.


Creativity and Climate: Both Affected by the Leader

A recent article1 in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies caught my eye. The authors provide primary research on the effects of scenario planning on people's perceptions of a creative organizational climate.

Basically the question is, "Does the task of scenario planning help people's perceptions of the creative climate in their organization?"

Scenario planning, for those of you not familiar, are activities designed to explore what can happen in an organization in the future. These exercises are said to foster a supportive climate because lots of opinions are sought, many diverse ideas are valued, and there is freedom to explore ideas and to be innovative in the utilization of the ideas.

An interesting question. Does a task like scenario planning improve creativity?

The Importance of the Task

The TASK. This is what caught my eye.

Can just doing an activity give birth to a creative climate in an organization?

I will spare you all the details and just get right to the point of the research. Here is what the authors conclude:

"While this study has found partial support for the hypothesis that scenario planning has an effect on creative organizational climate, specific expected dimensions of creative organizational climate did not show significant changes.”

The task itself did not impact creative organizational climate.

What is fascinating to me is that the task of scenario planning is designed to foster this creative environment but does not always.

Gut check time...

The question in my mind, if we are unsure about the task and its role in fostering a creative organizational climate, is what else could cultivate this type of environment?

It has been well documented for years by early researchers like Maslow, Herzberg, and Knowles that people will naturally seek challenges to expand their skills and expertise. Research has shown that when employees have increased opportunities to engage in activities like strategy and innovation, they have a greater sense of motivation and engagement (Meissner & Wulf, 2012). I am not saying that involving people in tasks like scenario planning is not important. IT IS. Giving people rich development experiences is always valuable in creating leaders in your organization.

Important Tasks Are Not Enough

The point of this research is that just engaging followers in the task, or giving them the developmental experience, is not enough.

What about the impact that YOU as the leader have? Could it be that it is YOU who is establishing the culture, and climate that have a direct effect on creativity?

Is it possible that your leadership has a direct influence on the creativity of those who follow you?

In a nutshell, the answer is yes!

The Leader and Innovation

In a three-way interaction of transformational leadership, employee identification with the leader, and innovative climate, Wang and Rode (2010) found that each of these elements is associated with employee creativity.

Leader, it is YOU!

1. How you lead (transformational leadership) 2. How you connect (employee identification with the leader) 3. How you set the climate for your team

These three elements together are vital to employee creativity.

Consider the tasks you involve people in, for sure. However, self-examination around the impact we are having on followers deserves as much attention as the tasks we involve followers in.

Questions For Self-Reflection

Here are three questions for reflection:

1. Leader, you matter in creating the climate in your organization.  You set the pace. How are you doing? 2. Your relationship with your followers matters. You are responsible for them being able to identify with you. How are you doing? 3. Their creativity is influenced by the innovative climate you are creating. How are you doing?

Valuable Resource (and it is FREE)

Need a resource to assess if you are fostering creative employees? Click here for a free download of our Fostering Creative Employees Check-list.

If I can be of any service to you, or you want to chat, send me an email at and we will set up a time to connect.


1 Thomas J. Chermack, Laura M. Coons, Kim Nimon, Peggy Bradley, and Margaret B. Glick

The Effects of Scenario Planning on Participant Perceptions of Creative Organizational Climate Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies 1548051815582225, first published on April 21, 2015 doi:10.1177/1548051815582225

Meissner, P., & Wulf, T. (2012). Cognitive benefits of scenario planning: Its impact on biases and decision quality. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 80, 801-814.

Peng Wang and Joseph C Rode.Transformational leadership and follower creativity: The moderating effects of identification with leader and organizational climate Human Relations August 2010 63: 1105-1128, doi:10.1177/0018726709354132